Ukraine: Russia strikes Ukraine’s Kharkiv, presses Donbas assault

KHARKIV: Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was reeling from a deadly Russian bombardment on Friday as Moscow pressed its offensive to capture key points in the eastern Donbas region with more shelling of residential areas.
The attack on Kharkiv, which local officials say has left at least nine people dead, raised fears that Russia has not lost interest in the city even after Ukraine regained control after fierce battles.
More than three months after Russia launched its invasion on February 24, which has left thousands dead on both sides and displaced millions of Ukrainian civilians, Moscow is targeting eastern Ukraine after failing in its initial ambition to capture Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has reiterated accusations that Moscow is carrying out “genocide” in Donbas and said its bombardment could leave the entire region “uninhabited.”
Oleg Sinegubov, the regional governor of Kharkiv, which is in the north of the Donbas region, said nine civilians had been killed in Russian shelling on Thursday.
A five-month-old girl and her father were among the dead, while her mother was seriously injured, she said on social media.
An AFP reporter in the city said the northern residential district of Pavlove Pole was attacked and he saw plumes of smoke billowing from the area.
The journalist saw several people injured near a closed shopping center, while doctors took away an elderly man with injuries to his arm and leg.
Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov said the northeastern city’s metro, which resumed operation this week after being used mainly as a shelter since the Russian invasion, will continue to operate but will also provide a safe space for residents.
In Donbas, Russian forces were closing in on several cities, including strategically located Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which lie on the crucial route to Ukraine’s eastern administrative center at Kramatorsk.
The pro-Russian separatists said they had captured the city of Lyman, which lies between Severodonetsk and Kramatorsk and is on the road to key cities still under Kyiv’s control.
Lugansk Regional Governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a Telegram video that at least five civilians had been killed in the Lugansk region, part of Donbas, in the last 24 hours alone.
Four had been killed in Severodonetsk and another person in Komyshovakha, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Severodonetsk, he said, accusing Russia of “incessantly shelling residential areas.”
In Kramatorsk, children wandered through the rubble left by Russian attacks as the sound of artillery fire echoed.
“I am not afraid,” said Yevgen, a gloomy-looking 13-year-old who moved to Kramatorsk with his mother from the ruins of their village, Galyna.
“I got used to the bombing,” he said, sitting alone on a slab in a destroyed apartment block.
Commentators believe that Russia’s gains in more than three months of war have been much smaller than President Vladimir Putin expected, although Moscow has gained control of a handful of cities in southern Ukraine, such as Kherson and Mariupol. .
The Kremlin now seeks to tighten its control over the parts of Ukraine it occupies, including expedited citizenship for residents of areas under Russian control.
Occupation authorities in Mariupol, which was taken over by invading forces this month after a devastating siege that left thousands dead and reduced the city to rubble, canceled school holidays to prepare students to switch to a Russian curriculum. , according to Kyiv.
Intensifying fighting across the country prompted Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to air Kyiv’s growing frustration with the West, accusing allies of delaying arms deliveries and telling his German counterpart that Ukraine needs heavy weapons. “as soon as possible”.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, whose country is vying for NATO membership in response to its giant neighbor’s invasion of Ukraine, said on a visit to Kyiv that it would take decades for Russia to regain its footing in the world.
“Trust is lost for generations,” Marin said at a news conference.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has faced criticism for Berlin’s slow response, also weighed in on Thursday, saying Putin will not negotiate seriously until he realizes he might not win in Ukraine.
“Our objective is very clear: Putin must not win this war. And I am convinced that he will not win it,” Scholz said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The flow of grain exports from Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of Europe, has been interrupted since the Russian invasion, threatening food security around the world and driving up prices.
The Kremlin on Thursday pointed the finger at Western countries for preventing grain-carrying ships from leaving Ukrainian ports, rejecting accusations that Russia was to blame.
President Putin said in a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow was ready to make a “significant contribution” to avert a looming food crisis if the West lifts sanctions imposed on his country by Ukraine.
But the United States scoffed at the offer, with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby accusing Moscow of “weaponizing economic aid.”

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